Forum: MSOs Should Go to Bat for CTAM U.


Like it or not, a lot of us cable operators are old dogs.We don't take well to learning new tricks.

Take marketing, for example. We know that it must beimportant. After all, why would companies like Nike, Anheuser-Busch Cos. and AT&TCorp. spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on marketing if it wasn'timportant to the overall financial health of those organizations? But, let's behonest: Deep down inside, we've never felt that money spent on marketing was anythingmore than a cost center. As cable operators, we saw marketing as just another trimmable --even slashable -- line item on the debit side of the ledger.

And if we didn't believe in spending money onmarketing, why would we ever want to learn anything about the actual discipline?

I'll tell you why. In a word, it's calledsurvival -- the survival of your company and the survival of you as a leader of thatcompany.

Times are changing and, as much as veteran operators likemyself hate to admit it, they are going to change with or without us. Read any reliablebusiness publication, or any one of a dozen best sellers, and they'll tell you verymuch the same thing. The world in which the cable industry operates today is one of highconsumer demand and enormous expectations; of highly customized goods and services; and ofone-to-one marketing and customer service.

The days of the mass-marketed, one-size-fits-all messagespromoting cookie-cutter products have gone the way of the afternoon newspaper.

It's not 1978 anymore, or even 1988. It is 1998, andthe rules have changed. Cable is no longer the only game in town and, each year, ourcompetitors get smarter and stronger. Soon, our incumbency won't mean a thing, andwe'll find ourselves in a marketplace where choice is not merely a factor, but anout-and-out force. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you've been inthe cable business for as long as I have, it should. For as much as we'd like tothink that we know how to run a business in an open-market environment, the fact of thematter is that we could use a lesson or two.

So, what can we old dogs do? We can go back to school,that's what.

The CTAM Educational Foundation is gearing up for theinaugural class of its centerpiece initiative, and cable operators nationwide should takenote. CTAM U. will be a one-week advanced-executive-education program at NorthwesternUniversity's top-rated J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, in concert withits Medill School of Journalism. The intense six-day course has been designed to helpprepare a limited group of senior cable executives to plan, think and react ascompetition-tested marketers.

This program is not about preaching to the choir. It is notabout making marketers better marketers. And it is not intended to help those who'get it' raise themselves to some higher plane of consciousness.

This program is about reorienting cable's leadership.It's about changing the attitudes of cable's best and brightest -- particularlyif they have not been exposed to competitive marketing. And ultimately, it's aboutteaching the industry's strongest operations people how to integrate a marketingsensibility into everything that they do.

In short, CTAM U. is about eliminating the barriers tochange within a company that could ultimately stifle its growth and threaten its future.

At the end of this month, the Endowment Campaign for theCTAM Educational Foundation and CTAM U. will reach its conclusion. If you are a cableoperator, and you believe in this industry and its people as much as I do, I urge you toconsider your support. Not only can you help personally with a donation, but CTAM hasestablished corporate giving levels, one of which I'm sure would be appropriate foryour company.

I also urge you to look at your senior-management team andto determine which of them would be candidates to participate in the historic first-everclass of CTAM U. While you might feel that you can't afford to have your key peoplein a classroom for a full week in June, I would counter that when you consider theshifting paradigm of our industry, the increasing demands of the consumer marketplace andthe quality of the program, you can't afford not to send them to CTAM U.

Please join me as an old dog willing to learn a few newtricks.

Jack Gault is executive vice president of Time Warner Cableand chairman of the CTAM Educational Foundation's board of directors.